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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Can America avoid a civil war?

Donald Trump latest rage-rant that the election is rigged has his supporters expressing angry thoughts about a violent revolt.   Sheriff David Clarke in Milwaukee says that if Hillary Clinton is elected, it is time for pitchforks and torches.  After covering a Trump rally in Colorado Springs,  Washington Post writer Dana Milbank warned that a violent uprising could well happen after a Clinton win.  

While we decry the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East,  we ignore our own brand of advocates for violence against fellow citizens.  The political divide has deteriorated from differing perspectives to explosive enmities.  People are expressing a desire to kill those who disagree with or oppose them.  With the civilian armory estimated to be 270 million guns,  the nation is quite ready to go to war.

Most of the attention is given to those who arm against the government,  in case it comes, in their minds, to take their guns or impose some heinous rule on them.  There is another body of gun owners that receives scant notice,  but quietly prepares for having to go to war against their neighbors.  A few years ago when the Colorado legislature enacted some laws restricting the sale of assault-type weapons and large-capacity magazines,  it spurred gun sales in the state.  Dealers were running out of firearms and ammunition.  I recall one dealer interviewed who was asked about the motives of the customers who were rushing to buy firearms and ammunition. [I have not been able  to recover the link to that story and am citing it from memory.]  He said that about half of the buyers seemed to be those who believed they had better stock up on arms before the government tried to suspend the Second Amendment.  The other half, he said, were those who thought they they'd better arm themselves against the first half.  

He said that about half of his customers were looking for assault-type weapons.   The other half were upgrading sporting-type firearms or were stocking up on the ammunition for them that could be used against tactical weapons.  He said he kept running out of a type of buckshot load for shotguns that could turn them into effective defense weapons.  As he put it,  half of his sales seemed to be made as a defense for the eventuality that some militia-type group might go on a rampage.  

The popular notion seems to be that liberals don't own or use firearms--although in recent years part of the fund-raising for the Brown County Democrats has been the raffling of rifles and shotguns.  Most of the Democrats I know have guns.  They do not, however, think that guns are a necessary part of contemporary life as  are ball point pens, automotive transportation, and toilet paper.  Most people I know understand  that the fear raised about infringing on the Second Amendment has much more to do with the profit motives of gun manufacturers than of any political threat to the Constitution.  But they also understand the psychology of people who create conspiracy theories to rationalize their deep seated racial and social hatreds.  Throughout the presidency of Barack Obama,  racial hatred has received much more open and frequent expression.  With the candidacy of Donald Trump,  it has become a sort of political fashion statement to recite the slogans of racial, ethnic, and religious hatreds.  The country has reverted back to the time of open animosity based upon race, religion, and political differences.  Rush Limbaugh's harangues against liberalism are composed of exactly those elements of false rhetoric that Goebbels contrived against the Jews and other groups to motivate the Holocaust.  Limbaugh is dismissed as an entertainer,  but the entertainment he deals in is the inspiring and exercise of hate,  an appeal to the reptilian cortex that dominates the mental processes of many humans.  He appeals to those whose ultimate entertainment would be a  lynch mob.  It is this segment of humanity to which Donald Trump appeals.   

The divide among Americans is not a mere matter of differing opinions.  It is a matter of enemies preparing for battle.  The Trump supporters have announced that the election of Hillary Clinton to president is not something they will accept.  The violence of some Trump rallies is an indicator of how they are willing to prosecute their beliefs.  Although Trump mouths words about  his ability to heal the divide among Americans,  he has created a divide so onerous that many people simply do not want to close it.  Trump has held up a mirror through which people can see what the country has actually become,  and for many people it is an America for whom many people have mired in ignorance and bigotry.  Those Americans who see Trump as the leader of change are unable to see that he is the enactor of those very things that they think  oppress them.  

Even if he loses, Donald Trump isn’t going away. But the man and the political phenomenon he has unleashed over the past 16 months are already posing a difficult chicken-or-egg question: Has Trump transformed America, or simply revealed it?

Trump's supporters read and hear about his financial finagles,  the improbable promises he makes,  the insidious bigotry he professes,  and they dismiss it all as attacks by  a biased media.   What Trump has done is to reveal to some Americans some very unpleasant facts about what kind of people their neighbors are.  An acquaintance of mine was   alarmed that a Trump sign was put in his neighbor's yard, and he said to me,  "Jesus Christ,  I just found out my neighbors are Nazis and too damned dumb to know it."  He said he found himself avoiding any contact with them.  He represents the attitude that Trump has inspired.  Many people find reconciliation with the values expressed by Trump and his supporters unthinkable.  Trump is a symptom of a very serious moral illness that has infected Americans.  It is an illness that many Americans do not want to be exposed to.  You cannot be reconciled with a disease that might deform or kill you.  

Many  people think America has continued on the path to more perfect freedoms, equality, and justice.  To them,  Trump's slogan of making America great again means a  reversion to racial and social oppression, inequity, and injustice.  

It is hard to imagine Americans relinquishing the advances America has made to Trump and his supporters.  In the meantime,  people buy arms and ammunitions,  not to reconcile, but to prepare for what may be the civil war that ends America as it has developed.  

It is hard to conceive that the differences that have been exposed in America can be arbitrated by leaders.  It is hard to see how what happens in the voting booths will change any minds or attitudes.  The election may well not decide anything.  The dedicated left will never accept Donald Trump's version of America.  The dedicated Trumpists will never accept Hillary.  Iraq's warfare between the Sunnis and Shiites may well be the American future.

Choose your candidate.  And then choose your weapon.  Or  choose a different country.  

It is hard to see any peaceful solution to  this conflict.  What would Jesus or Lincoln do?

Further reading:  click here.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States